In Bolivia, a Baby’s Life Was in Danger

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By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
Posted on 11/17/2016
Ingela

Ingela collects fruit with her mother, Cristina. Two years ago, Ingela was severely malnourished and sick.

In Sapahaqui, a rural town in Bolivia, a woman exclaimed, “We have a very sick baby here!”

Ingela was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and her mother, Cristina, had brought the 6-month-old to a community health monitoring event at the local early childhood development center. A doctor was on hand, but the woman who raised the alert was a guide mother, a health volunteer working with ChildFund’s local partner organization, La Primavera.

Trained by ChildFund in early childhood development, guide mothers visit parents in their communities to check on their children’s health and development, and teach caregivers how to best help children. They also lend a hand at health monitoring events like this one in 2014.

The sick child’s name was Ingela, the youngest of 12 children. Cristina knew something was wrong with her daughter and was very depressed.

“There is nothing else to do,” she said.

The doctor’s diagnosis was clear: Ingela needed medical attention in the nearest city because the community health center didn’t have enough equipment to help her. Cristina argued that she had no money to go to the city or buy medicines; she had been giving Ingela natural medicines and infusions.

But La Primavera’s staff members said their organization could pay for the baby’s hospital stay, so they took Cristina and Ingela to the nearest hospital. The diagnosis: severe anemia, severe malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia.

For Bolivia’s children under age 5, mortality rates are high due to diarrhea (14 percent) and respiratory infections (27 percent), according to the World Health Organization. In rural areas, even more children are sick and malnourished. A 2016 report by the World Food Programme says that 37 percent of children living in rural Bolivian communities suffer severe malnutrition before age 5. Many children haven’t gotten the help they needed in the past, but ChildFund and our local partners are working to make health care more accessible.

After a month in the hospital, Ingela gained weight; she went from 9.5 pounds to 10.1, and the family has received La Primavera’s support throughout the ordeal.

Now, the episode seems like a bad memory. Ingela is now 2 years old and visits the Early Childhood Development center with her mother for health monitoring. On a recent visit, she weighed in at 21 pounds — within the normal range for her age.

“Those days were so hard for us,” Cristina remembers. “I didn’t have enough milk for Ingela, or money to save her. I am very grateful to La Primavera and ChildFund for all the advice and support.”

Now Ingela smiles and plays with her siblings. She is happy.